Thanks to Dave (The Tangerine Diabetic) for his excellent writeup of Diabetes UK's Big Event (and also on Shoot Up or Put Up. Following his 'call to arms' I urge you to get involved with the public consultation on food labelling. The consultation ends on 6th August 2012. Have your say here right NOW!
Dear Sir or Madam
I have only today been made aware of the public consultation on the front of pack labelling as detailed here: www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/05/food-labelling-consultation-launched/
Along with approximately 2.5 million other people in the UK I live with diabetes. I am one of the 250,000 or so people with 'type 1', the autoimmune version of the condition. As you may know food plays a pivotal role in the control of both type one and type 2 diabetes and in some senses knowledge about food eaten is as important as any medication taken - even injected insulin. I can't live without insulin, but I can't live without food either! Injected insulin needs to be balanced against the carbohydrate in food (that's all carbohydrate, not just sugar). Getting the 'sums' wrong in either direction can lead to unconsciousness/coma/death on one hand or blindness/kidney failure/amputation etc on the other. Food and diabetes represents a balancing act with both short term and long term perils waiting in the wings.
You have to to a LOT of back-of-pack squinting as a person with diabetes. I've been living with Type 1 diabetes for over 20 years and in all that time I can truthfully say that not a morsel of food has passed my lips without first being considered and evaluated in terms of its likely effect on my blood glucose level.
I would urge the committee to add more meaningful information to the front or packs by including CARBOHYDRATE rather than just 'sugar'. Even better would be a Glycaemic Index/Glycaemic Load indication (an average figure relating to how fast a food converts to glucose in the bloodstream). Both for people with diabetes and for those without *all* carbohydrate converts to glucose in the blood. What is not well known is that sugar, though it is energy dense, does not convert particularly quickly. Many foodstuffs sold as being 'healthy' and 'slow release energy' are in fact substantially faster to convert to glucose in the blood than sucrose (table sugar). Most 'healthy' breakfast cereals, for example are particularly poor in this regard. While this is of acute interest to those of us who are 'playing at being our own pancreas' it is also very important to everyone. Foods which convert rapidly to glucose cause a burst of insulin release and contribute to weight gain and cholesterol imbalance whether or not one has diabetes.
Adding 'Carbohydrate' to pack fronts, and indicating how disruptive a food is in blood glucose terms could be crucial in slowing and/or preventing many hundreds of thousands of people's slide into Type 2 diabetes, and would enormously help the blood glucose control of people already diagnosed.
80% of the NHS budget for diabetes is spent on treating preventable complications - helping people with diabetes make better food choices, and helping others avoid developing diabetes in the first place offers a significant opportunity to save millions and millions of pounds for the NHS at almost no cost.